Neighboring Massachusetts is still dealing with the repercussions of their rogue state chemist, Annie Dookhan. This past week, prosecutors took the next step in the process: They filed a list of the people whose case could be dismissed because of Dookhan's conduct.
Massachusetts State Chemist Tampers With Evidence
The whole situation started back in 2003. Annie Dookhan strove to impress her supervisors as a state chemist working in Boston, Massachusetts. Her job was to analyze samples from people who were charged with drug crimes, and regularly outpaced the other workers in the lab.
Unfortunately, Dookhan's impressive performance was not because of her work ethic or skills. They were because she simply wasn't testing all of the samples. One of her favorite tactics was “dry labbing,” where she would test a couple of samples and then report the same results for numerous other samples, as well. Those untested samples, therefore, were labeled as positive for drugs, resulting in criminal charges being filed against innocent people.
Dookhan's evidence tampering went on for years, putting thousands of people into the criminal justice system who did not deserve it. Her actions only came to light in 2012. In all, her conduct cast doubt on 40,000 cases, including 20,000 convictions.
Prosecutors Throw Out Thousands of Cases
After Dookhan's conviction for evidence tampering and numerous other charges in 2013, judges in Massachusetts had to review the cases her evidence had been used for. After prosecutors dragged their feet, the courts forced them to make two lists – one of the cases that would be dropped because they couldn't hold up without evidence processed by Dookhan, and another list of cases that the prosecutors would continue fighting.
Those lists were due on April 18. Including cases that had already been dropped by district attorneys, 95% of the cases handled by Dookhan are going to be dismissed.
For Many, the Damage Has Already Been Done
Unfortunately, there are many people who were convicted on Dookhan's tainted evidence or who decided to plead guilty in the face of it. The lives of these people have been irreversibly altered from Dookhan's conduct. They lost jobs, housing, paid legal fees, and dealt with the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction for years. Some were even deported.
Maine Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly
Dookhan's misconduct was an unprecedented massive miscarriage of justice that has impacted the lives of thousands of innocent people.
These types of problems in the practical application of the criminal justice system are showing themselves more and more, and are less likely to be caught as local police departments are increasingly being insulated from meaningful state or federal review. This makes having a skilled criminal defense attorney at your side even more important if you've been charged with a crime in the state of Maine.
William T. Bly is a criminal defense attorney, representing people who have been charged with operating under the influence (OUI) and other crimes, as well. Contact him online or call his law office at (207) 571-8146.